The 2021 Major League Baseball season will begin as scheduled on April 1 after players rejected the league’s proposal of a one-month delay.

MLB said it proposed the delay on the advice of medical experts and to better protect the health and safety of players and support staff. It was hoped a delayed season start would allow for COVID-19 infection rates to fall and additional time for vaccinations to be distributed.

The offer included starting the regular season on April 29 and playing a 154-game schedule that would pay players in full as if playing 162 games. MLB also proposed two changes from the 2020 season that it claims were “overwhelmingly popular” with fans – a modified expanded post-season and the universal designated hitter rule.

MLB said in a statement: “This was a good deal that reflected the best interests of everyone involved in the sport by merely moving the calendar of the season back one month for health and safety reasons without impacting any rights either the players or the clubs currently have under the Basic Agreement or Uniform Player’s Contract for pay and service time.

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our clubs to report for an on-time start to spring training and the championship season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols.”

Following the rejection of the proposal, spring training will begin on February 17.

The MLBPA said it received the proposal late last week. In a statement, the body said its executive board and player leadership had reviewed the proposal and decided to reject the offer.

“Under the proposal, the end of the season would be delayed one week, the regular season would be shortened to 154 games and all 30 teams would be required to play several doubleheaders,” the MLBPA said. “Players would also be required to accept previously rejected proposals that link expanded playoffs with expansion of the designated hitter.

“Although player salaries would not be initially prorated to a 154-game regular season, MLB’s proposal offers no salary or service time protections in the event of further delays, interruptions, or cancellation of the season.”

MLB’s 2020 season was significantly impacted by COVID-19, with the majority of the campaign played behind closed doors. The season had been due to start last March but eventually got underway in July with a condensed 60-game schedule.

Fans did not return to MLB until the post-season, with the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field welcoming a limited number of spectators for the National League Championship Series and World Series.

Image: Matt Hecht